A Rose for Nana

Once upon a time there was an old rosebush which grew strong and stoic and from whose stems sprung gorgeous roses which bedecked the entrance door of an old house. He has lived there for three generations: three generations of women, the rosebush insists on adding. For, although many men have come and gone through that door – some never to come back – the committed rosebush survives mainly to follow the lives of those women, so diverse and yet so similar. After all, what is the use of being a solid and respectful rosebush if one cannot develop the skill to spend one’s days investigating somebody’s? As for his choice, in all due fairness, the lives of those women were incomparably more interesting than those of the men. All through those years, his heart glowed with joy at the transformations of the women but also grew faint with the sudden growing up and the unforgiving growing old. Sad, he took pity at the unexpected toughening and shed furtive tears at the break of day (or were they simply dew drops?). Later on, relieved, his tender eyes learned to accept and eventually rejoice at all the changes. It was indeed a noble and generous rosebush. So many words said, so many unsaid. So much joy and so much sadness. The rosebush, day after day, memorized it all in his rosebush mind: the lives of those women had become the reason for his existence. Truth be said, he took much pleasure in telling everything, with all the due details and very little exaggeration, to the small rosebuds that sprouted and bloomed with curiosity. Little by little then, he became an excellent storyteller and wove beautiful narratives about those strange and fascinating women. The roses, curious as only roses can be, sighed at the love stories, gasped in surprise at the adventures and grieved over the misfortunes of the women.

One was the grandmother. The other, the granddaughter.

The rosebush, despite himself, admits that his roses have a je ne sais quoi of superiority. When they can’t impress the garden with their wondrous colors, they distinguish themselves through their intense and exotic fragrances, causing quite a stir particularly with the jasmines. The rosebush is right, there is no way to deprive his roses of their voluptuous beauty, of their blossoms and inebriating scents. For dubious reasons, however, which escape the understanding of the wise rosebush, thorns grow and prick little hands (probably the hands of the granddaughter’s daughter – rosebushes cannot know everything). Wrong are those who think that thorns exist to protect the roses: the grandmother’s hands as well as the granddaughter’s were indeed dexterous and knew very well how to avoid the evil thorns.

The last rosebud that had sprouted, with the strength from the solid rosebush, survived two storms and some nasty frosty days. It became a beautiful rose. In accordance with the fate of roses, it grew beautiful and proud of itself, awaiting the right day to showcase its splendor. After a cold night, right after the rising sun put out its first rays, it rehearsed its blossoming and by noon coquettishly opened its last petals, attracting butterflies, bees and some eyes. Gorgeous and majestic, it reigned a predictable short reign in the garden of those women, who no longer seemed to care for the roses. That Sunday afternoon, to the rosebush’s surprise, the granddaughter who had been absent for long, dashes inside the house. So much love, so many stories, so much to say and how little was said on that Sunday: the impatient granddaughter does not linger long. The rosebush senses it all, he remembers the story of the grandmother, he remembers the story of the granddaughter… and weeps for both – his life had not come through unscathed in face of their forced separation. The granddaughter, although visibly touched, tries at the same time to hide her feelings. On the way out, her trained eyes spy the beautiful rose. (For the granddaughter is fascinated by flowers and has helped herself from the rosebush’s roses for decades, to a point where the rosebush resented her for a while). This time, however, the generous rosebush lets go of whatever ill feelings he might have harbored; knowing the granddaughter the way he did, knowing the grandmother the way he did, he performs the expected sacrifice: he bows and curves his stem for the wrinkled and slightly shaky hands. The aged hand cuts the flower in the first attempt. The most beautiful rose of the garden is offered to the granddaughter. The granddaughter, for some seconds, forgets it all: she closes her eyes and brings the rose to her lips and feels (this is what the rosebush imagines) the sweetest fragrance she had ever felt. The smell of my childhood, she thinks. The granddaughter relents and hugs her grandmother tenderly. The rosebush is happy, despite the fact that he had lost his most beautiful creation. The rosebush had fulfilled his purpose.

Rest in Peace, Nana.

(In loving memory of my Grandmother Jupira Martins de Oliveira)


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